This shop front is like your bad landing page.

Why is a Great Landing Page Important for Your PPC Campaign?

In the grand tradition of all digital marketing blogs, let me start by giving you an offline scenario that we can all relate to “IRL”: you pass a billboard in the street which is advertising the perfect gift for your partner. The billboard tells you everything you need to know about the product and you decide to buy it right there and then. You arrive at the only shop in town selling the item to find it half-boarded up, with broken windows and a missing sign. Worse still, there is a suspicious character hanging around outside eyeing you up and down. Even if the perfect gift is inside that shop, what do you do? You turn around and look for something else.

Your paid search marketing campaign could well be that billboard we saw – informative, memorable, relatable and with a great call to action. But the formatting of your landing page is slightly off on mobile devices, there are spelling mistakes in the headings and you have a non-secure submissions form triggering alerts in the user’s browser. You might as well be stood outside that store in a rough part of town.

First Impressions Matter More Than Ever

Landing Pages are crucial to any digital marketing campaign. They are the first real opportunity you have to introduce your business, or the products you sell. A great landing page can cause a user to convert on their first visit, whilst a poor one can leave a lasting negative impression that’s hard to come back from – 79% of dissatisfied customers won’t visit your site again. Pushy sales language, irrelevant content and pressuring your visitors into submitting personal information such as email addresses can be enough to drive your traffic away for good.

Landing Pages Affects PPC Quality Score

Poor landing pages can also have a direct effect on the success of your paid search campaigns. Each PPC keyword you bid on in Adwords is assigned a Quality Score out of 10. While there are many, many factors that are taken into account by the Google Algorithm, effectively quality score is a rating of your keywords relevancy to a user’s search term and the landing page you direct them towards.

If a user searches for shoes, but your advert takes them to a landing page about coats, they’re unlikely to convert. Not only are you going to see a lower ROI in this scenario, but Google will eventually realise that your landing page has little relevancy to the keywords you bid on and punish you by lowering your Quality Score: there’s lots of evidence to suggest that lower quality score means a higher £/click and a lower Ad Position in the search engine results pages.

What makes a Great Landing Page?

Simply put, when a user arrives on a landing page after clicking your link, it should be immediately clear they have arrived in the right place. All the information that they need to make their decision should be freely available to them in a friendly, clear and concise way with a powerful CTA. A great landing page will be technically sound too – fully mobile responsive, formatted correctly and with a clear focus on security.

In the age of the internet, people want instant gratification – and if your landing page doesn’t immediately offer a user the information they are looking for, then you have already lost their interest. Remember – without the perfect landing page your customers aren’t going to care about what you have for sale, they’re just not going to get past the state of your shop front. As the old saying goes: first impressions really do matter on the internet.

The Value of Being Seen

Here’s a question: What value do you put on your business being seen by prospective customers?

Most of you will agree that the first thing you do these days when looking for a product, restaurant, or business is turn to Google. Working in digital marketing and specialising in local search has shown me two things: how effective it is to be fully present to your target market, and how few businesses utilise this free tool to make sure every possible user can find them.

Having a Google My Business listing allows you to present key information to customers, convincing them to continue to the website or contact you for more information. The best way to engage a user is through images. We’re told not to, but everyone judges the book by its cover, and business listings are no different. So why not make your business ‘cover’ the best it can be?

 

Power Of The Masses

Google has realised that a lot of business owners either don’t have the time, or just don’t know, to fill out their business listings. This is probably why they created the Local Guides community, allowing locals to not only leave reviews but to contribute edits or add to missing information on local business listings.

Out of intrigue I joined the Google Local Guides back in May 2016 and started adding pictures and reviews to the places that I had been.

As a digital marketer I found it fascinating that Google was now ‘Crowd Sourcing’ local business information. Obviously, for me there was a professional benefit here, to find out the information that Google was wanting to gather before making it available as an attribute on listings.

Having now contributed reviews, photos and verified other Local Guides’ information, I’ve worked my way up the Levels Google put in place unlocking different features along the way. One of my favourite features are the questions that Google asks about the places you’ve been, such as accessibility or what the place is known for. So much information has already been gathered that recently, Google has used the questions that it’s gathered from the local guides to add it’s Attributes feature to Google My Business.

“Google My Business Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest.”

Tom McAdam Google Local

This brings my back to my original question of the value of a prospective customer and how they see us. While writing this article I surpassed 2 million photo views, and though the views aren’t for one particular business, there are some heavy-hitters who have seen traffic as the main image shown for their listing.

From restaurants to distilleries and museums, customers want to be able to see what’s there before arriving, so why not make sure you populate your listings with professional imagery that generates interest in visiting?

To truly give customers an immersive experience before arrival Google’s integration of its Street View app has even made it possible for Local Guides to contribute 360° photos to a listing.

 

Doing so and contributing over 50 approved images then leads to becoming a Google Street View Trusted Photographer (which I happen to be), allowing photographers to transfer the rights/ownership to Businesses.

So whether it’s a photo of items on your menu or a 360° of your roof-top terrace, make sure that your business listings show your potential customers everything your business has to offer, and you’ll be rewarded with more visits and more customers.

Why does a fast page load time matter?

Most people who work day-to-day in digital marketing know that the inner workings of the Google PageRank Algorithm are mostly a complete mystery. Whether or not your webpage will appear on the SERP’s is decided by a mind-boggling 200+ factors.

Thankfully for us here at Mackerel Media, there are a number ranking factors under our control that the industry (almost) always agrees can make a difference to how your site will be ranked by Google. It’s likely that you’ve already optimised your site for keywords or authority-giving links, but have you thought about how important page speed is on today’s fast paced, on-demand and mobile-focused internet?

Web Pages are Bigger than Ever

According to a recent study, the average page served today is 3.5 times greater than in 2010 – a whopping 2.5MB of code, advertising, images, videos and other rich media that needs to be loaded onto your device before you can watch the latest viral cat video or discover which type of meatball you should be on Buzzfeed.

And while slow load times can be infuriating on desktop computers, on mobile devices page load time being anything less than instant can actually be damaging. Google itself shared data with the industry that suggested 75% of mobile device users would abandon a webpage if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load, and 79% of those dissatisfied customers won’t visit your site again. Ad blockers have been on the rise in no small part due to this particular problem, but that’s a blog for another day!

A Lesson from Google

Google certainly learnt this the hard way. During a Web 2.0 conference in 2006, Marissa Mayer highlighted that a 0.5 second increase in SERP load-time resulted in a 20% decrease in traffic. That’s right, half a second was enough for the worlds most visited webpage to lose a fifth of its traffic.

If that wasn’t enough of a reason to make sure your webpage loads as fast as possible, then let me introduce you to the Gap of Death theory. This rightfully scary-sounding concept is the name given to the time between a webpage users load-time expectations and the actual time a page takes to load. For each additional second a user waits you can expect your conversion rate to drop by 7%.

A 7% loss in conversions per second is a nightmare scenario for any business, especially ones that rely on e-commerce websites. Amazon.com techie Greg Linden blogged about the results of internal A/B testing that suggested even very small delays can result in substantial and costly drops in revenue”.

The Paid Search Contagion

While the effects of page speed are intricately tied to your organic performance, a slow load time can also affect your paid digital marketing efforts too… sorry. Right here in the AdWords support documents, we can see that “landing page experience” and specifically “landing page load time” can have an effect your overall AdRank – and in turn your average advertising costs and ad position.

Now that we know the damage a slow loading page can cause to a business, what can we do to increase page speed?

With desktop, the answer is to keep an eye out for bottle necks and reduce their impact – bloated web pages, poor hosting services, 301 redirect chains, analytics code, slow widgets and plug ins or incompatible media. If you suspect that your webpage load time is too high, these are the usual suspects.

AMP to the Rescue?

Mobile sites have a smarter answer – Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP. The AMP Project is designed to give users a great mobile experience no matter what platform their mobile device is loading web pages from. In essence, AMP pages have found success by augmenting the HTML code that powers a web page and pre-loading as much content as possible using standardised formatting before the user ever clicks on a link. The result is a page which appears to load instantly.

Unsurprisingly, Google is a huge fan of AMP pages – even allowing web developers to identify their pages with SERP friendly discoverable <”amphtml”> tags. However, whilst take up has been quick and widespread, some in the industry who have worked with or have knowledge of the tool for a while are not entirely fulsome in their praise. One commentator reported a bug in AMP that apparently risks inflating Unique User counts four-fold which would cause enormous issues for major publishers. Others were concerned that AMP Pages ‘masked’ the publishers’ URL making it harder for users to either identify the publisher or share a link to the article, but to its credit Google responded by changing AMP behaviour to ameliorate the concern.

So what does all of this information teach us? Simply put, slowly loading web pages can reduce the likelihood of a user ever reaching your site, and massively decrease the chances of them completing one of your conversion goals if they do.

In the end, how well your online business channels perform is down to how quickly your pages load. As Marissa said in her 2006 Web 2.0 talk, “Users really respond to speed.”